May 23, 2011

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President John C. Bravman
Class of 2011 Commencement
May 22, 2011

Good morning, everyone. It is also my pleasure to welcome today's graduates, their families and friends, to Bucknell's Commencement ceremony. What a great day it is.

When I was hired I was told that I must bring California weather with me, and I have delivered. We join today together as a University community to celebrate our students' achievements. Our faculty have worked side-by-side with you as teachers, advisers and mentors since your first days on campus. Our staff have supported you and guided you as you have earned your degrees.

Along with the members of the University's Board of Trustees, we welcome you all here, including our distinguished keynote speaker, Mr. Erik Weihenmayer. This is a joyous day for our seniors, and we are glad that you are here to share it with them.

Today, as you heard, you join a group of nearly 50,000 Bucknell graduates who live and work all around the globe - and yet all of whom still call this marvelous place home.

The profound joy of this moment culminates a long-term effort that engaged your entire family. We are honored that they chose Bucknell and entrusted us with you and your education.

We all know, simply put, this day would not have been possible without them. To that end, I would like the graduates of the Class of 2011 to stand, to face their families and show them the appreciation that you have in your hearts.

Now if you turn back and remain standing. Your family is around you and they support you. They are a big part of why you are here today. You did the work, you earned the grades, they paid the tuition.

In front of you are some of the more than 1,300 faculty and staff who made your time at Bucknell what is was. They guided you, they instructed you, they helped you, they taught you, they learned with you.

With an enthusiasm known only to true Bucknellians, please show the members of the faculty and staff on the stage how much you appreciate them for their work amongst you. Thank you.

We have a wonderful ceremony ahead of us. As president of this great University, I have the special privilege of speaking today to the graduating class. But as a former graduating senior - only 1979 - I'm also aware of the sensory overload you're likely feeling right now.

403 words
So I will tell you what I want you to remember about your four years at Bucknell, and this day, in exactly 403 words. Starting now.

I will begin with a beautiful quote from Adlai Stevenson, the famous American statesman from the mid-20th century. A long time ago, at a different commencement ceremony, he said:

"Your days are short here; this is the last of your springs. And now in the serenity and quiet of this lovely place, touch the depths of truth, feel the hem of Heaven. You will go away with old, good friends. And don't forget when you leave why you came."

For me, these words describe the beauty of discovery, the joy of learning, the wonder of your time in college and the value of the precious friendships that grew during your shared journey - the last of your springs.

Last fall, at my inauguration, I asked Bucknellians: Who are we becoming?

The easy answer is that in a few minutes, you will become Bucknell's newest alumni. But you know that there are no true, easy answers for the biggest questions.

As a University, we constantly strive to become something more. For no matter how well we are doing, no matter how much excellence we achieve — as individuals, or as an institution - we know we can always do better.

I urge you to hold on to this credo after this day and throughout your life. Continue to work hard, with focus and passion and intensity, to make the difference you believe must be made. Never be fully content with who you have become, because the future depends on your will to excel, to achieve, and to exceed.

Your Bucknell degree is a pivot upon which the future turns. When you face challenges, you can draw upon the inner strength and commitment it required. We trust and hope you will also draw upon the humility college brings to us, the humility that comes from knowing, as we all do, that each of us can always learn more, do more and be more.

Who are you becoming? You are becoming a better, more authentic version of yourself - no one else. You are reaching new goals. You are becoming a person attuned to the reflection and empathy that a liberal arts education provides and demands. You are becoming a person attuned to the engagement with the world that marks a Bucknell education. A person who is part of a global community of Bucknellians who share this foundation and now stand with you side by side. A person who knows that your University will be here for as long as forever means, as another place you, too, can call home.

This is the last of your college springs, but it is only the beginning of your story. Make it your story. Lead a life worth living. Lead an authentic life. You will then demonstrate to the world that you are in fact, a Bucknellian. 'ray Bucknell! Congratulations Class of 2011!

Commencement speaker
It is now my distinct honor to introduce the Commencement speaker for the Class of 2011, Mr. Erik Weihenmayer. A world-renowned mountaineer, he is celebrated for his remarkable physical accomplishments. He is also a passionate humanitarian whose first-hand knowledge of overcoming personal obstacles has inspired his dedication to helping others.

Despite losing his vision to eye disease at the age of 13, Erik has become a celebrated and accomplished athlete. He is a world-class mountaineer, rock climber, paraglider, marathon runner, skier, long-distance biker, ice climber and acrobatic skydiver.

In 2001, he became the first blind climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest. In 2002, he became one of fewer than 100 people, and the only blind person ever to climb all of the Seven Summits - the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

This feat of endurance, skill and bravery is amazing enough on its own. But there's more.

He has also dedicated himself to bringing new possibilities to others. He is cofounder of No Barriers, a non-profit organization that helps bring people with disabilities through their own personal barriers to live full and active lives.

In 2004, Erik and his Everest teammates led a group of blind Tibetan teenagers 21,000 feet up the north face of Mount Everest. Their remarkable journey was captured in the award-winning documentary "Blindsight."

Erik's exploits have brought him fame around the world. His 2001 autobiography, Touch the Top of the World, was published in 10 countries and six languages. In 2007 Erik co-authored a second book, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles Into Everyday Greatness.

Now on Friday, a bunch of us were going about our chores and our work. Perhaps you were packing up and celebrating.

On Friday, to mark the 10th anniversary of his Mount Everest ascent, Erik and his team were climbing Colorado's Mount Elbert, 14,000-plus feet tall. That's two days ago, the highest point in the Rocky Mountains. Starting next month, he will appear in the upcoming adventure reality series on TV, "Expedition: Impossible."

Erik leads by example. We are so honored that he joins us here today. His speech is being broadcast for later review on C-SPAN. Please give a wonderful warm welcome to Mr. Erik Weihenmayer.

Contact: Division of Communications